SU:Media gave alt music fanatic Thomas Holmes the opportunity to attend and review ArcTanGent Festival - and we're happy to report that he had an incredible time! Find his full debrief below, with plenty of headbanging, musical review and highlights of rain to keep you entertained.
Arriving at ArcTanGent Festival on 17/8/17, I had a plan. I would see as many bands as possible, chat and hang out with anyone I could find that was interesting, and just sit back and enjoy the ride.
What a ride it was.
This festival, in its fifth year, showcases the progressive side of music, and as those of you who read my last article will know, it is one of the most diverse rock festivals you’ll ever go to.
For those who missed my last article, I chose 11 acts you shouldn’t miss at ArcTanGent 2017.
You can find it here: https://www.upsu.com/media/news/article/8537/11-Bands-You-Shouldnt-Miss-at-ArcTanGent-Festival-2017/
In this article, I’ll be recounting some of my favourite moments, people and bands I saw over the weekend. It was three days of fun, parties, new and old friends, and of course, great live music. Let’s start, predictably, with…
Day 1: Thursday
I arrived at Fernhill Farm on the convenient shuttle bus, having already made friends with a bunch of people from all over the place. Swedish people, Plymouth University students, Germans who live in Norway, you name it. This just highlights the atmosphere among crowds at rock festivals. Everyone is there because they love this music, and this scene, and so you immediately have something in common.
Pictured: My campsite, what a view.
The weather (mercifully) is glorious, and so I set up my tent in the VIP camping area, before doing a reccy of the site. There’s four stages, with only two of them running concurrently at any time, but across the site from each other. This great idea means that soundcheck and setup times are masked by another band playing, and you won’t ever get noise leaking from one band to another, which is wonderful planning. There are vegan food places, a fish and chip shack, indie clothing shops, and more around to have a look at. There’s even a Samaritans booth, who I chatted with for a while. They were posted to be available for a chat, with those people in mind who might have been left by their friends, or just there on their own, and might not be having such a good time. I found this to be a really sweet idea, and if it saved one unhappy fan, I think it was worth it.
After looking around, I return to meet my neighbours. Jim and Simon, camping next to me, made my weekend so much more fun, and it was great hanging out with them, and just chatting about acts we’d seen.
I eventually get around to watching some bands. I see Fall of Messiah, who were on my “must see list”. The bass they carry is phenomenal, and it was great to warm up my headbanging muscles with them. A little later, I see Heck, and hear from a number of people on the way that it is in fact their last show. Their set is insane. It’s heavy, energetic, and I stay far back to enjoy watching the crowd interact with this band. It’s clear they wanted to go out with a bang, and they certainly managed it, with their guitarist climbing on speakers, almost everyone ending up in the crowd, and the singer placing the drum carpet on a group of fans, before climbing onto it and riding it around like a magic carpet. They end with the microphone and all sound dying, as the singer and the crowd shout the remainder of the song acapella. What a spectacle!
I’m excited for Nordic Giants, who are the penultimate act of the night, so I hug the barrier and wait. They arrive, all two of them, a drummer and a multi-instrumentalist, who mostly plays keyboards, samples, and brass. They are dressed in strange, feathered outfits, with masks, and it’s immediately great to watch. They sit opposite each other, with a giant projection screen at the back, and another big monitor stood vertically between them. What unfolds is possibly the most cinematic live music experience I’ve ever seen. Their performance synchronises with short films on the screens, sort of providing the soundtrack to these films. I’ve only ever once before cried at a gig, and this one nearly became the second, I’ll be honest. Some of the films they perform to, for example The Last Breath, Sundays, and Solipsist marry so well with their compositions, and they move you deeply. It was breath-taking, and I’m not the only one who had to return to my tent afterwards in order to recover and recharge. Nordic Giants will be returning to the South West for their tour in November, and if you’re around, I’d highly recommend seeing them.
Day 2: Friday
I wake up soaked, finding out my tent wasn’t quite waterproof enough for the absolute torrent that fell on Thursday night and Friday morning, but it’s okay – I have my festival spirit and a little bit of rain won’t stomp on it. It’s lucky that I have that mentality to be honest, because it rained heavily all day after that. Gone are the lush greens we walked on Thursday; the British summer time is here, hurrah for mud.
I kick off Friday by watching Right Hand Left Hand with my neighbours Jim and Simon, and it’s an interesting show to watch. The guys are likeable, as they rush around the stage pressing buttons and changing instruments to create their loop-pedal extravaganza. Good stuff!
I spot Rabea Massaad from Toska, who are performing on Saturday. I take a moment to quickly say hello to him, and express my gratitude for his music, as I’m a big fan of his two bands and his YouTube channel.
Pictured: Friendly guitarist Rabea Massaad next to a soaking, but still happy me.
Next it’s off to the Bixler stage for Madilan, another band from my “must see” list. Their stage attire is… interesting, to say the least! The drummer arrives in a women’s swimsuit, which slowly begins to uncover more of his torso as he plays. The bass player is dressed as a construction worker, but in the shortest Daisy Duke jean shorts I’ve ever seen. The guitarist is dressed as an old lady, complete with headscarf, and the singer is like an athletic, scally version of Dr Frankenfurter. They’re amazing, to be honest. I wondered for a second if this was a conscious “this is our look” type of statement, but I later find out it’s a very successful and random fancy dress moment from the band, who did so for fun, but also to stick in people’s minds. Musically, the set is really engaging, though not incorporating any of the vocoder effects to be heard on their EP. Overall a great set, which kept the audience engaged throughout, and I’d see them again for sure.
After Madilan I see itoldyouiwouldeatyou, and they are brilliant. I later tell them that as a band they feel like if The Smiths were created in the 21st century, and that’s a really good thing to be. Their music is catchy, melodic, yet moody in places, and it’s all coloured with LGBT themes, which is something missing from the majority of rock and metal music, I find. The set is energetic, and funny in places, and all in all, itoldyouiwouldeatyou put on a really memorable and enjoyable set, which ended with the singer climbing into the crowd, losing their glasses, and offering the microphone to a group of fans, who finished singing the song with gusto. Amazing stuff. They’re playing in Plymouth for the Turbulence Festival later on this year, and I’d highly recommend you check them out there if you can.
In the crowd, I meet a group of new friends and go to hang out with them at their tent, having a laugh for a few hours. (Shoutout to Sophie, Ben, Chopsy and Fleur, thanks for making my rainy Friday more enjoyable!)
My new friends and I go to check out Hemelbestormer, who put on a heavy masterpiece of a set, and Stearica, who are one of the loudest bands I’ve ever heard. We see OHHMS who are the masters of doom, and leave me with a sore neck, before running over to catch the end of Wot Gorilla?
By this time, I’m definitely ready for a lie down to recover, and I hear Listener from the main stage, who sound really awesome too. The problem here is that there is so much music to check out, and I have a limited amount of energy!
After recovering, I catch the end of Hark’s set, who are heavy, and wake me up nicely. Next on my list are TTNG, and immediately I’m hit with the talents of Hank, the singer and bass player. Even his vocal warmup during soundcheck awards him deserved cheers and applause from the crowd. Their set is beautiful to listen to, delivering pensive yet melodic music, with Hank being so polite in between songs. My favourite thing about their set is that the band don’t try to fake a rock-star persona, they are just nice guys playing good music, and it makes them very likeable.
Pictured: Hank (L) with TTNG
Next on my list are VOLA, a must see for me. I occupy the barrier, not wishing to miss any moment of their set. They are charming, tight, heavy and loud, and I lose my voice singing along. Hearing Starburn live was one of my absolute favourite moments from ArcTanGent. They sound as tight as on the record, but when live, the standard of the music is on a whole other level as the deep low notes hit you in the chest and force you to headbang along. Definitely one of my favourite sets of the weekend.
Despite being ridiculously tired, I check out Ho99o9 who have amassed a huge audience, before going to the back of the Arc tent to watch Converge. They play a massive, energetic set, and they are so heavy and tight. People cram into the tent for a view, and even though they’re not really musically my thing, I can say for sure that Converge put on an amazing show.
Day 3: Saturday
This is it then, the final day. It has thankfully been a lot drier, and my waterproof jacket goes largely unused all day.
I go to check out Real Terms, a band I knew nothing about due to them not having any music on Spotify, but this is again the joy of a festival – checking out new bands and getting an authentic first experience. They remind me of Everything Everything in a really good way, and they put on a really talented display first thing in the morning. Throughout the set, I’m stood with Hank from TTNG, and we chat about the band and the ArcTanGent experience afterwards. He seems to be enjoying himself, despite also having a giant leak in his tent, and tells me he loves Real Terms. I’m inclined to agree after the set they put on.
Pictured: Hank from TTNG next to my mug. What a sweetie.
I race over to see Toska, who are one of my “must see” bands. It’s amazing to say that I “sung along” to an instrumental band, but that’s sort of what happened – I had listened to their EP so much that hearing it live was such a treat. They’re tight, and they perform their music well, stating that this is the biggest show they’ve ever done. It’s clear, as you watch them, that they’re having all the fun in the world, and that’s a great thing for an audience to feel from a performer.
I see a bit of Future Horizons, who are heavy and catchy, before going over to watch Halo Tora. This Glasgow band make my arm hairs stand on end, with their vocal harmonies and catchy, clever melodies. Their professional show rocks, and again I find it impossible to stand still. I hung out with them later on, and they’re great fun to be around. On that note, let me quickly say cheers to Ian; thanks for introducing me to Bucky, mate!
As the sun has come out, I decide to have a little lie down in the only grassy area left, and listen to Pijn. This instrumental band make my chilled out sunbathing session really enjoyable. With renewed vigour, I go to check out Death Pedals, who on the surface are a bit out-of-left-field for this festival, but are awesome. Their simple, yet catchy and heavy Murderdolls-esque riffs resonate with me and a number of other crowd members, who stand and listen. I find it difficult to stand still, however, and my air-bass comes out. I leave the tent with an aching neck again, having headbanged throughout. Good show lads.
One of the final acts on the bill are the band I have mainly come to see: TesseracT.
Any one of my friends, or readers of my articles, will know my love for this band, and so I get down to the barrier early to snag a front and centre spot. When they arrive, they play a set of old classics and brand new music, and I sing all of it. I headbang, sing and jump for their entire set. The live vocals of Dan Tompkins are crisp, beautiful, and dextrous. The instrumentation is true to the record, with pre-recorded parts syncing up with the live instruments perfectly, creating a fully-rounded experience that you just have to see, if you like this band’s music.
After a set which seems to be over far too quickly for my liking, I find myself unable to speak, and I check out SikTh. These masters have the crowd in the palm of their hands, and though I only know a few songs, they are completely brilliant to watch. I bump into the guys from TesseracT, and tell them how good their set was. They tell me they saw me singing every lyric at the front, and I hope that showed my gratitude better than words ever could.
I spend the rest of the night at the VIP bar, with itoldyouiwouldeatyou and others, just shooting the breeze and getting to know each other, and finding out about their musical themes. They made the rest of my ArcTanGent Festival experience a great one, so cheers for that.
I went to bed that night mulling over the amazing experience I had just had. Thank you, ArcTanGent Festival for an unforgettable weekend, full of friendly, like-minded people and great bands. If you’re into this sort of alternative music, I would highly recommend the experience. Just remember to bring your waterproof, and some wellies. (I had to throw my shoes away, because I’m an idiot and forgot mine.)
And with that, that was it. It was time to get up one last time, take the tent down and wait for that shuttle bus back into Bristol, to begin the post-festival downtime, where every morning you wake up wishing you had more bands to check out. It’s sad, but it passes, and it makes you look forward to checking out all the other live music in your area – it’s been there all along, all you have to do is go and see it.